Above: protesters behind metal shields in Kiev’s Independence Square, Tuesday
From Richard Greeman
As the uprising in the Ukraine seems to be coming to a crisis after weeks of mass demonstrations and occupations, I would like to translate for you the following letter received last week from Julia Gusseva, the Russian translator of Victor Serge and co-organizer of the International Conference of Independant Labor Unions in Kiev last November. Julia, an activist since the ‘80s, is one of the founders of the Praxis Center in Moscow, and writes from an anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint.
You ask what we think of the situation in the Ukraine. In fact, the Ukrainian movement is a part of the wave of civil protests that has been unfurling for the last few years in every corner of the world (“Arab Spring,” Occupy Wall Street, Indignados, the movements in Greece, Turkey, Russia …). In the Ukraine, the pretext was the refusal of the President to sign the agreement on association with the countries of the European Union. In this semi-authoritarian country, a large part of the population considered that association as a step toward democracy, rights, higher social standards, etc. The positive demands of the movement are democratic (return to the 2004 Constitution, new, free, honest elections, etc): the people are fighting for their full rights. The main thing is that the movement is self-organized (autonomous) everywhere around the country, with activists occupying the town halls, etc. The same labor unions who participated in our conference in Kiev last year have recently formed the all-Ukraine strike committee.
As far as the “leading personalities” of the movement are concerned, we see the same thing as in Russia, Turkey, etc: politicians who are trying to put themselves at the head of the movement, but whom the great mass of protesters does not at all recognize as their leaders. Yes, there are various political currents in the movement, including Ukrainian nationalists (and also the Left, which is part of the “citizen sector” of the protesters), but the vast majority – as in Russia and elsewhere – are regular citizens, non-party political activists.
Kiev has already seen police violence (before the current clashes – RG ) causing hundreds of injuries and (at least 70 at present -JD) deaths; this means the movement will not stop half way and fade out. Besides, the President is inclined to give in to popular pressure (there is no doubt that Putin would have acted differently in his place!) So there is a good chance that the popular movement will triumph and, on the condition that the politicians don’t turn it to their own ends, will make the Ukraine a freer and more democratic country than it is today.
Je t’embrasse, Julia
Asked about the publicity given to the presence among the demonstrators of right-wing and nationalist elements (both in the mainstream media and on the Left), Julia referred me to this article, refuting what she called “Putinist/Stalinist insinuations about democratic revolutionary movement in Ukraine.”
From Amnesty International:
North Korea is in a cateogory of its own for scale and breadth of human rights abuses. Now is the time for action
When Kim Young-soon was sent to political prison camp Yodok for ‘gossiping’ about former leader Kim Jong-il, her parents, daughter and sons were also imprisoned for ‘guilt by association’.
Each day, they were woken at 3.30am and forced to work until dark. When her parents starved to death, she wrapped their bodies in straw and buried them herself. Her children all died in the camp too.
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (widely known as North Korea), there is no political opposition, no independent media, and no free trade unions or other civil society organisations.
The country has been in the grip of a devastating food crisis since the early 1990s, and nearly a million people have starved to death
At the heart of this vast network of repression and cruelty, are the political prison camps. Watch our video: the inside story of the prison camps
At least 100,000 people live in the prison camps. Satellite images we commissioned last year show the largest covering an area of approximately 215 square miles. Some people are sent there without charge, let alone a trial, and forced to work with little food or sleep.
Many die of overwork or malnutrition. Torture is rampant, and executions are commonplace.
A former guard at the country’s largest prison camp, Kwanliso 16, told us of women being raped by visiting officials then disappearing:
‘After a night of “servicing” the officials, the women had to die because the secret could not get out. This happens at most of the political prison camps.’ Former prison guard
Armed with evidence of the scale and depth of abuse within the country, we have been lobbying the United Nations to hold a Commission of Inquiry into North Korea for many years.
The inquiry began in March 2013, and published its final report today, laying bare the gruesome reality of life in North Korea. Among testimony given was an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby.
The world can no longer say it does not know what is happening in North Korea. And the North Korean regime can no longer deny this is happening. The UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council must now use their power and influence to ensure action.
An urgent message from Eric Lee of LabourStart:
On January 3, 2014, the Cambodian government sent military police to attack a demonstration of striking garment workers. The police opened fire with AK-47 rifles killing five workers and injuring dozens more.
The government has since banned all demonstrations and used military force to clear the streets. At least 39 workers have been detained and are held in unknown locations. Faced with this brutal repression, the unions have called off the strike and workers are returning to work, although they are continuing to press their demands for an increased minimum wage.
They are no longer on strike — but their struggle continues and they are asking for our help.
Please take a moment to support the campaign demanding that the Cambodian government stop the violence, restore freedom of association and assembly, release the detained workers and drop any charges against them, and resume negotiations for an increase in the minimum wage:
This campaign has been called by IndustriALL, UNI Global Union, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Cambodia Labour Confederation, and Workers United. With your support, it could be the largest campaign we’ve ever done.
Please help us build support for this campaign – share this message with you friends, family and fellow union members.
The article that follows (‘Pussy Riot Roars Out of Prison’) appeared in The Daily Beast on 23 December: I can’t improve on it. Photo by Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
By Anna Nemtsova
Maria Alyokhina showed no mercy for Vladamir Putin when she walked out of jail, saying his performance felt like a”dark art of performance”:
They went behind bars as feminist artists and came out as human rights defenders. Both Pussy Riot performance group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina qualified for amnesty last week but they were only officially told on Monday and freed the same morning. Maria Alyokhina immediately spoke to The Daily Beast about being Vladimir Putin’s pardon, the tactics of the Russian penal system, and more.
Alyokhina said her release from jail felt more like “a secret special operation” than an act of humanism. Monday morning, prison guards told her that she had been pardoned but did not let her walk free on her own. Officials hurried to pack her belongings without letting Alyokhina decide what she wanted to bring with her or what to leave for her friends. A prison convoy led the artist to a black Volga car and drove her away from prison in unknown direction.
With this amnesty, people are given some freedom but not all of it. Last week, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was awoken in the middle of the night and taken away from his prison. Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny commented on Twitter that he could not understand such amnesty accompanied with “idiotic abductions, flags and black Volgas.” Alyokhina had no chance to say a proper goodbye to her friends: the other inmates. Officials brought the artist to the Nizhny Novgorod railway station and left her there. Alyokhina still wore her prison coat with her name written on it. She could not wait to see her little son Fillip and “was dying to take a shower,” she said. Alyokhina also felt worried about the fate of 20 women, fellow inmates who supported her in prison.
Alyokhina said after the “endless humiliations” in prison, what had happened to her this morning seemed like “ a dark art performance.”
In phone interview, Alyokhina said that after all “endless humiliations” she had experienced in prison what had happened to her this morning seemed more like “ a dark art performance.” Looking for a place to go, Alyokhina called her friends at a local human rights center, the Committee Against Torture. One of the activists at the center, Stanislav Dmitriyevsky said that officials “secretly sneaked Masha out of jail” so she would not walk free to meet with her family, friends and reporters.” To Alyokhina, who spent almost two years in jail, the prison’s behavior was no surprise: “This is typical act for our penitentiary system, close and conservative as jail itself—their methods are all about secrecy, no information and zero transparency,” Alyokhina said. Nobody would tell that she had just walked out of prison. Even in her green prison overcoat and uniform skirt Alyokhina looked as any young woman, “except that she is extremely intelligent, brave and stable for a 25-year-old woman, who spent over 1.5 years in jail,” said human-rights activist Igol Kalyapin.
Kalyapin visited Alyokhina in her Ural prison colony last spring. The system applied methods meant to break any man’s courage to Alyokhina, Kalyapin said. “She would call prison guards ‘personnel’ and demanded they respect her rights, at the time, when she knew she could be murdered any night; her life was threatened several times. She was punished by isolation in a single cell but Masha stayed unbreakable; she is a well-mannered, intelligent and very respectable woman, “ Kalyapin said.
Meanwhile, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova called for a boycott of the Olympic games in Sochi as soon as she had a chance to speak to press waiting for her outside the hospital where she had been kept.
An urgent message from Eric Lee of LabourStart:
Two weeks ago I asked for your support as Korean railway workers were about to launch a strike. They were concerned back then that their government might attempt to break the strike. They wanted the solidarity of workers around the world. They wanted a clear message sent to their government and nearly 9,000 of you sent off messages of protest.
Today, their worst fears are coming true.
Just a few days into their strike, the Korean government has launched a savage crackdown.
- A few hours ago, the offices of the railway workers union were raided by dozens of police. Computers and other equipment were seized.
- Arrest warrants have been issued for the top union leaders — who are currently hiding in a safe place.
- Korean media are reporting that the military is prepared to send hundreds of soldiers to work as strike-breakers.
- Tomorrow morning, the subway workers in Seoul are set to launch a solidarity strike, shutting down the capital.
It is our job now to mobilize the widest possible support for the Korean railway workers.
Those workers are on the front lines today of the fight against neo-liberal policies such as privatisation — and they are defending the basic human right to have independent trade unions with the right to strike.
If you’ve not yet done so, please send off your message of protest today: http://bit.ly/1c8Uao8
If you’ve already supported the campaign — thanks. But let’s do more:
- Post this link to your Facebook page: http://bit.ly/1c8Uao8 Tell your friends there that you support this campaign and urge them all to do so.
- Tweet this: Hands off the Korean railway strikers! http://bit.ly/1c8Uao8 @labourstart
- If your union has a mailing list of its members, make sure they are all informed about this important struggle. There are many millions of organized workers out there who aren’t aware of this fight. Please email your fellow union members.
Finally, LabourStart is being continuously updated with news about this strike and others. Make sure it’s the place you start your day on the net: http://www.labourstart.org
Cross-post by Eric Lee
Thom Hartmann is a prominent left-wing radio broadcaster from the USA. I first came across him when he interviewed me at a conference in Washington and was promptly told by everyone just how prominent he is. He describes himself as a “democratic socialist” and his nationally-syndicated radio show has an estimated 2.75 million listeners.George Galloway needs no introduction to a left-wing audience in the UK.What Hartmann and Galloway have in common is that they host shows on Russia Today (RT), a global satellite television channel that performs the same function for Vladimir Putin as Press TV did (and still does) for the Iranian dictatorship.Hartmann’s show, “The Big Picture”, typically covers the standard fare of the US left – most recently with reports on how badly Walmart treats its workers, or why Vermont’s socialist senator Bernie Sanders should run for president.Galloway’s new show on RT is called “Sputnik: Orbiting the world with George Galloway”.
RT uses the language of the mainstream left to cover politics that are fundamentally reactionary and that serve Russian imperial interests.
Of course that’s not how the TV channel describes itself. “RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more,” says their website, “and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge.”
By “news with an edge”, they may sometimes mean that quite literally – and the edge belongs to a Russian bayonet.
For example, according to a timeline published on RT’s website, in 2008, “RT leads the coverage of the conflict in South Ossetia. RT is the only international news network to report from Tskhinvali during the Russia-Georgia War of 2008 and the first to confirm atrocities committed by the Georgian military against the civilian population.”
They were probably the only news network in South Ossetia because they were embedded in the Russian army.
One of RT’s regular shows “exposes the BIG STORIES Mainstream Media dare not touch,” according to their website.
But those stories are invariably ones in which the West, and in particular the USA, comes out looking bad.
When RT turns its attention closer to home, the progressive mask drops rather quickly and the strident tone of late-Stalinist Soviet propaganda comes to the fore.
This week, while “Mainstream Media” reported on the mass street protests in Kiev, RT brought on experts to discuss what was behind the new, giant wave of demonstrations.
One Moscow-based expert came on to explain that while it appeared that the European Union was behind the unrest – for which the United Nations should be called upon to intervene, as the EU was violating Ukraine’s sovereignty – this was not actually the case. The EU, we’re told, is only acting as a proxy for Washington. The real behind-the-scenes players are the National Endowment for Democracy and Freedom House – the same shadowy organizations that brought on the original “Orange Revolution”.
RT can’t enforce a party line, and the speaker that followed – a Russian academic – forcefully disagreed, insisting that it was in fact the EU that was sabotaging Ukrainian sovereignty, and not merely the EU acting as an American proxy.
Both speakers of course agreed that it was Western “interference” that was the source of the trouble.
While the two speakers were “debating” who was more at fault, the news ticker scrolling across the bottom of the screen talked about how protestors in Kiev were throwing rocks at police, how an estimated 100 police officers had been injured so far (no mention of civilian casualties), and how some protestors were using “an unknown gas” to attack the defenders of public order.
The film footage shown again and again was of masked, violent protestors hurling objects at the police, who stood still for the cameras.
It was made abundantly clear to RT’s viewers that the Russian state is not happy with pro-EU demonstrators in Ukraine, and that Mr Putin would be delighted if the Ukrainian leadership would deal with them the way he has dealt with such threats to state security as “Pussy Riot” and the Greenpeace “pirates”.
Let’s be absolutely clear about what RT actually is. This is a state organ of the Putin regime and though it occasionally uses the language of the left (when attacking Russia’s rivals) the one thing consistent about its coverage is its uncritical support of Russian imperialism.
Honest leftists should refuse to have anything to do with RT, shouldn’t watch it, should refuse to be interviewed by it, and certainly should not host shows on it.
This sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen…
… according to the Tories, the Daily Mail and Farage. The anti-EU idiot left is just as nonplussed, as today’s Morning Star demonstrates, as it struggles between attempting to give an accurate report (eg Putin’s threat of trade sanctions, and the “violent police attacks”), and a nudge-nudge/dog-whistle suggestion to its readers that the protesters and opposition leaders like Lutsenko are dodgy characters (ie: the stuff about Lutsenko quitting the Socialist Party and being a “prominent figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution”); the closing statement that “Mr Yanukovych condemned the brutality and pledged to punish those responsible” is, of course, simply laughable:
100,000 defy ban to rally for EU deal
By Our Foreign Desk
MORE than 100,000 Ukrainians defied a ban on protests yesterday to rally in Kiev’s Independence Square over the president’s refusal to sign a deal with the European Union.
The crowd was the biggest yet since President Viktor Yanukovych’s surprise eastward turn last Sunday.
Police allowed the rally to proceed peacefully but broke out tear gas and truncheons when thousands of protesters tried to storm the presidential offices with a front loader.
Several hundred demonstrators also burst into the Kiev city council building and occupied it despite police attempts to drive them back with tear gas.
Opposition leaders called for a general strike and the setting up of a protest camp.
Yuriy Lutsenko, a prominent figure in the 2004 orange Revolution who quit the Socialist Party when it began coalition talks with the communists, said: “Our plan is clear — it’s not a demonstration, its not a reaction. Its a revolution.”
The protesters are furious that Mr Yanukovych backed away from a dal establishing free trade with the EU and greater political co-operation.
Mr Yanukovych said Ukraine couldn’t afford to break ties with Russia — a view shared by a third of the public, while 45 per cent want more EU integration.
Moscow had threatened trade sanctions if the EU deal — which was meant to be signed by Friday — went ahead.
Yesterday’s protests followed violent police attacks on Saturday’s demonstration.
Mr Yanukovych condemned the brutality and pledged to punish those responsible.
Above: the wreckage of a Jewish shop in Berlin, the day after Kristallnacht
From the Irish Times:
It took a month – and a pointed request from Dublin – for our man in Berlin to file a report on Kristallnacht, November 9th, 1938.
Now a Berlin synagogue destroyed 75 years ago in the so-called “Night of Broken Glass” is exhibiting Charles Bewley’s “disgraceful and unfathomable” report.
The 13-page document, condemning the “undesirables in the Jewish race”, is notorious in Irish diplomatic and academic circles. But a German curator expects it to cause “astonishment” when it goes on display for the first time on Monday in Berlin.
“That a diplomat let fly like this is singular, I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve read a lot of reports,” said Dr Christian Dirks, curator of the exhibition of diplomatic dispatches on the 1938 pogrom.
After years of official harassment of Jews in Nazi Germany, the state-sanctioned violence against Jews, their businesses, homes and places of worship on November 9th-10th, 1938, is seen as the start of the rapid road downhill to the Holocaust.
The Nazis dubbed it a “spontaneous expression of outrage” at the murder of Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat in Paris, by Herschel Grynszpan, a German-born Jewish refugee of Polish parents. But many of the 100 diplomats cited in the exhibition noted that Germans were ashamed of this flimsy attempt to cover up high-level Nazi involvement.
The Bulgarian embassy wrote that it seemed “nothing will be able to stop a permanent solution to the ‘Jewish question’”.
Even Italy, a future Axis ally of Nazi Germany, was shocked by events, writing that it was “simply not imaginable that, one day, 500,000 people will be put up against a wall, condemned to suicide or locked up in huge concentration camps”.
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels noted in his diary on November 11th: “We’ll wait for the reactions abroad. For now there’s still silence, but the uproar will come.”
There was much uproar, just not from Bewley. In sober language he describes the growing exclusion of Jews from German public life and describes the events of November 9th as “obviously organised”.
But his report, which begins in the tone of a dispassionate diplomatic observer, soon identifies with claims in Germany of the time that Jews dominated the worlds of finance and entertainment and used their influence to instil what he calls “anti-Christian, anti-patriotic and communistic” thinking.
He says their corrupting moral influence – promoting abortion, controlling the white slave trade – helps explain the “elimination of the Jewish element from public life”.
“Of all the diplomatic reports this one is usually demagogic and nasty,” said Dr Hermann Simon, director of Berlin’s Centrum Judaicum. “He really left no cliche out.”
In the report’s last section, Mr Bewley takes issue with the Irish media for following the pro-Jewish line of the “British press, itself in Jewish hands”, and “Anglo-Jewish telegraph agencies” by displaying prominently news of oppression against Jews but suppressing news of crimes perpetrated by Jews and anti-fascists.
In his conclusion he holds back from advising Dublin on how to correct what he believes is Ireland’s one-sided view of what he calls the “Jewish problem”, while leaving little doubt that he views Jews themselves as the key issue.
The anti-Semitic virulence in Bewley’s report is “unique” among the diplomatic dispatches, according to curator Christian Dirks.
“The report bowled us over,” he said. “It proffers an educated anti-Semitism which doesn’t just blame the Jews for everything but provides alleged reasons for anti-Jewish feeling. In many passages it recalls arguments you hear today from neo-far right thinkers like David Irving. ”
As well as quotes from the Bewley report in translation, the exhibition details his appointment to Ireland’s mission to Berlin in September 1933, his recall in summer of 1939 and subsequent departure from the diplomatic service. He settled in Rome and died there in 1969.
This, from Hope not hate, seems like a sensible initial response to this remarkable development:
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 8 October 2013, 11:18
Above: Robinson with Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz, today
We are reacting with cautious optimism to news from the Quilliam Foundation that English Defence League (EDL) leaders ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Lennon) and his cousin Kevin Carroll are leaving the EDL.
In its statement, Quilliam announces that Robinson and Carroll can “no longer keep extremist elements at bay” from the group they founded in Luton in 2009.
However, what is less clear at this stage is whether Robinson and Carroll are renouncing the racism, Islamophobia and violence that they promoted, or for the anti-Muslim hatred that followed in their wake.
Since Robinson/Lennon descended with 100 supporters in a drunken riot on the night Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, there has been a large spike in anti-Muslim incidents – including mosque arsons, bombings (with the alleged perpetrator also accused of murdering a Muslim grandfather), desecration of Muslim graves and the Metropolitan Police recording a sharp rise in Islamophobic crimes in the capital.
There are still many questions over the future of the EDL post-Robinson/Carroll, and what happens to all the thugs they have so gleefully whipped up.
Said HOPE not hate director, Nick Lowles: “We celebrate Quilliam’s efforts here, but only a complete renunciation of the violence and hatred the EDL leaders have promoted, and a turning away from the anti-Muslim rhetoric they have championed, will be enough for the many thousands who have suffered from the EDL’s ugly actions over the past three years.
“EDL supporters have called for mosques to be burned, holy books to be destroyed, Muslims to be deported, they have cost us £10m in policing bills, brought disorder to our streets, and many, many more have been sentenced for acts of violence, gun possession, paedophilia and other crimes.
“To claim they represented working class Britons was laughable: HOPE not hate and others have worked closely with unions, faith groups and the real working class of Britain to oppose the blind hatred and violence promoted via the EDL and its counter-jihadist backers. What happens now to those wealthy individuals who have backed the EDL leaders to the hilt? We doubt they, or Lennon/Carroll, will disappear so quickly from the scene.
“Merely setting up a new party or anti-Muslim organisation will not be enough to convince anti-hate campaigners, and those interested in democratic government, that Lennon and Carroll have truly renounced their ways. We hope they have. Well done to Quilliam but many questions still remain.”
For more information, please contact 07951237721 or 020 7681 8660
Protest: for everyone the Daily Mail hates
On Sunday, all the people hated by the Daily Mail – that’s pretty much all of us – are going to turn up at their headquarters, loud and proud about who we are. If you’re a woman, a Muslim, LGBT, a nurse, a socialist, a trade union rep, a disabled person or just someone who doesn’t like hatred being pumped into public life every day, turn up.
This is an upbeat, carnival-type protest, a statement of defiance against bigotry and hatred. So turn up in a good mood, with colourful banners, full of pride about who we all are.
Journalist and campaigner Owen Jones said: “A newspaper that once had the cheek to back Adolf Hitler and the Blackshirts has smeared Ralph Miliband, a Jewish refugee who fought the Nazis for this country, as a ‘man who hated Britain’.
“But the reality is it is the Daily Mail who hates Britain. They hate our proud institutions, like the NHS and the BBC. Their campaign of hatred has targeted women, public sector workers, trade unionists, immigrants, Muslims, benefit claimants, travellers, and other vast swathes of our society.
“We’re calling on all those hated by the Daily Mail to join us on Sunday, and to be loud and proud about what they are in a show of defiance against bigotry and hatred.”
Sam Fairbairn, Secretary of the People’s Assembly said: “Miliband announces he’ll scrap the Bedroom Tax and freeze energy prices, the next day the Daily Mail launches a vicious personal attack on his father. Millions are suffering under austerity Britain and this paper has made it clear who’s side they are really on – the corporations and the austerity addicted politicians. It’s the Daily Mail who really hates Britain.”
H/t: Comrades Bruce and Coatesy